It might seem like overthinking to make a blog post about distributing advertising flyers. Maybe so, but while I was posting a few on bulletin boards around town in preparation for our new home dojang’s grand opening, I noticed that in this extremely specific and competitive slice of the world, there were sound lessons to be learned on the theme of The Right Way.
Anyone in a small town, especially a college town, has seen bulletin boards covered by dozens or hundreds of flyers, business cards, printed posters, postcards, and every other conceivable size and shape of paper. Crowded into a few square feet are public notices for lectures, clubs, workshops, markets and sales, performances and concerts, art openings, lost pets, and anything else that some person or group wants to announce to the widest possible audience.
Over time these flyers overlap, sometimes becoming many layers deep. They almost look like the layers of life in a forest: on top a leafy canopy, below that vines and animal nests fighting for space within branches, and at the bottom, fungi and low-lying ground cover. Each organism has its own place and function.
When we ask students to distribute flyers, they’ll inevitably find themselves confronted with an overloaded board and try to find the best place to fit our sign into the mix. If the board has been cleared recently, there may be open space. . . if so, take it and move on! Most of the time this won’t be the case, and you’ll have to figure out what to remove or cover. Since every flyer represents someone’s heartfelt attempt to get the word out about their project, it’d be thoughtless to just tear someone else’s down and take their spot. Here’s what I do:
- look for out of date events. if a lecture happened last week, it’s fine to rip it down.
- sometimes moving flyers around slightly will free up enough space for ours to fit. taking a minute or two to rearrange the board may make everyone’s sign more readable while making room for ours.
- if there still isn’t enough room, look for organizations that may have posted multiple events, or even multiple flyers for the same event. if one group is taking more than their share of a board, consider stacking their flyers so it’s clear there are several things happening, and the viewer can flip through if they’re interested in seeing more than the top one.
- if there are other martial arts schools—or even yoga, pilates, crossfit, meditation groups, or other exercise/health/spiritual groups that may appeal to some of the same people as our school—be aware of them and protect their right to advertise just as we do. it may be tempting to try to “eliminate the competition” but that impulse is short-sighted and counterproductive. every martial arts school is different, and having many options helps people find the Way that’s right for them. good martial arts schools have similar goals and values as ours, so treat them with the same respect we’d hope they reserve for us.
The above is most useful when hanging on a large, cluttered, board in a public space. I should also add that many smaller stores have window displays or other small areas for posting this kind of material. It’s a nice gesture to ask the store owner (or salesperson on the floor) for permission to hang our flyer, even if it seems obvious that it’s okay. Many of these people are nice and are happy to help, and often they’ll take the flyer and hang it for you. Every now and then, someone will take an interest in what we’re doing, and the conversation could lead to them trying a class, or at least putting in a nice word for us if they see someone looking at our flyer. Even more rarely, someone is cranky or objects for some reason, in which case it’s better to find out that way than to hang the sign and have them become upset and take it down later anyway. Of course, if someone doesn’t give you permission—for whatever reason—there’s probably no point in trying to persuade them otherwise. Politely thank them for their time and move on.
It might seem like this topic isn’t very consequential, but in some ways that’s what The Right Way is all about: always taking the high road, even when it’s not necessary or likely to lead to any direct or important benefit. Practicing mindfulness and respect in details as minor as the above helps us, in a small way, to achieve our own goals while bettering the world around us.